Sam Yang Dragon Claw .50 caliber big bore air rifle: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2


The Dragon Claw from Sam Yang is a .50 caliber big bore air rifle.

Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of Sam Yang’s Big Bore .50-caliber Dragon Claw single-shot air rifle. Thanks for being so patient on this report. It took three separate trips to the range to collect the data for what I’ll tell you today, and the report will not end here. This rifle has some more secrets to reveal, although I now know a lot more about it than when I started.

Break-in helps
For starters, this airgun needs some break-in time, so plan on it. When I started this test, the rifle was very stiff and hard to cock, but now it has smoothed up considerably. The hammer spring is still very stout, so cocking the rifle isn’t that easy; but at least the hammer comes back smoothly now. In the beginning, it was actually difficult to stop the cocking mechanism at low power because the hammer required such a yank to retract. Well, that’s behind us now; and the rifle can easily be cocked for low power or high power. Plan on about a hundred shots for a break-in.

Open sights could not adjust for the barrel droop
I never planned on using this rifle with open sights since it has such a nice scope base on top of the receiver, but just for fun I tried shooting several groups with the open sights during the initial chronograph testing. Naturally, all testing was done at the rifle range due to the incredible power of the airgun, so the targets were at the same 50 yards I would normally shoot using a scope.

But even with the rear sight adjusted as high as it will go the rifle still shot about 6 inches too low at 50 yards. I tabled the report on open sights and moved on to a scope.

The second time at the range, I discovered that the adjustable scope mount was not adjusted for the amount of droop this particular rifle has, so that was another day I couldn’t really test the rifle. I did discover, however, that .495-inch round balls scatter all over the place. They shoot about two feet low and group in 12 inches or more, so I decided not to test them further. Both the Air Venturi 200-grain round nose lead bullets and the 225-grain Air Venturi round nose lead bullets from Pyramyd Air seemed to hold some promise, and they were the ones I brought back for testing the next time.

Scope and mount
I was using an AirForce 4-16x50AO scope mounted in an old B-Square (American-made) one-piece AA adjustable scope mount. You can’t get that mount anymore, but you can use a Beeman 5039 adjustable mount in its place.

Before the test
Going into the accuracy test, I had a couple notions that proved to be wrong. Maybe not entirely wrong, but certainly not completely right, either. The first that was the rifle was going to be more accurate on low power than it would be on high power, and the second was that the 200-grain bullet would outshoot the 225-grain bullet. I will address these faulty ideas at the end of this report.

How the test was conducted
I learned (I thought) during the chronograph test that the rifle had enough air for two good shots on high power and five good shots on low power. The assumption for low power proved correct, but during the testing I discovered that a third shot on high power was possible with reasonable accuracy. I say “reasonable” because of another variable that I’ll have to conduct another test to resolve.

The five-shot groups you see that were shot on low power were all shot with a single fill, but the five-shot groups on high power were shot using two fills. The rifle was refilled after the third shot.

Let’s see the targets!
The groups are too large to show actual size, so they’ve all been reduced to fit the screen. The target is a 50-foot timed and rapid-fire pistol target whose bullseye includes a 9, 10 and X ring and is 3-1/16-inch or 7.9cm in diameter. I will explain each target in the caption.


Five 200-grain bullets at 50 yards on low power are all over the place. This group measures about seven inches between centers.


Five 200-grain bullets on high power only look better by comparison with the others. this group measures about 4-7/8″ between centers.


The five 225-grain bullets shot on high power are scattered just like the 200-grainers on low power. This group measures about seven inches between centers.


Five 225-grain bullets shot at low power almost did well. Three are in an acceptable group of about one inch. The other two open it up to about 4.25 inches.

What’s going on?
While no big bore airgun is a tackdriver, they all do shoot better than this. I vowed, therefore, to discover what the problem is, or at least to test the rifle more thoroughly. I even told Edith I would clean the bore with J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound, the way I do when a smallbore performs erratically like this. Only I don’t think that’s what’s happening in this case.

Look at how the bullet is loaded.


The bullet is loaded by pushing the breech cover forward and laying the bullet in the loading trough, which is the back portion of the breech.

The difficulty I think I’m encountering is the bullet is not being seated uniformly in the rifling. When I load it, I push it forward with my finger; but that must not be far enough. Perhaps, sometimes it is and other times I don’t push it far enough forward. Look at the last target and you’ll see three holes of what I would consider an acceptable group and two that are wild. Maybe those two were not seated far enough forward to engage the rifling, so they slammed into it at high speed and in a tilted position.

In the next test, I’ll take care to use a special tool to seat every bullet as deep into the breech as I’m able. I think that will solve the problem, but only testing will tell us for sure.

Until I know for sure that I’m seating all bullets correctly, I can’t really say which of the two ways is more accurate. The same goes for high power and low power, which seemed to reverse in accuracy when I changed bullet weights.

Too much is unknown at this point, but at least this rifle is getting a very thorough test!

How much air does the Dragon Claw use?
I now have over 100 total shots on the test rifle, and my Air Venturi 88 cubic-foot carbon fiber tank is still filling the rifle to 3,000 psi. I also filled a Talon SS tank twice from the same carbon fiber tank during this same period. Those of you who plan to get a big bore rifle are well-advised to also get an 88 cubic-foot carbon fiber air tank to fill your gun.

28 Responses to “Sam Yang Dragon Claw .50 caliber big bore air rifle: Part 3”

  • flobert Says:

    That is *really* inaccurate. Bullet seating may be it, maybe a trashed crown, or the barrel vibrating, actually effectively loosely at the hinge, during firing? Or are the sights *really* wonky? That’s lousy accuracy for a pistol, there’s got to be some fix to make this gun perform better.

  • Mel Says:

    I wonder…wouldn’t they do better to use a sliding barrel in a sleeve, like the Hatsan “Torpedo” airguns or the “Shark” CO2 gun use? You could load the projectile directly into the barrel.

  • Mr B. Says:

    Morning B.B.,

    You said that “While no big bore rifle is a tack driver” which begs the question;what do you consider as the acceptable accuracy for this rifle? I am with flobert and wondering if this particular gun has a bad crown.

    Bruce

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Bruce,

      I think an inch to an inch and a half at 50 yards would be acceptable. That’s the sort of accuracy I have gotten with other big bore airguns when I tested them. That was why I made the comment about the last target having an acceptable group.

      With my Quackenbush .458 Long Action Outlaw I fire one shot, then elevate the rifle using the mil dot scope as a reference and fire a second shot. Then I refill and do it again. Then I refill once more and fire the fifth shot. With that I can get a one inch group at 50 yards.

      For you and flobert I just checked the crown. It is flush and appears perfect, but the rifle has a thread protector for attaching a silencer. I will remove that next time, in case the compressed air reflecting off the sides of the protector is somehow affecting the stability of the bullet. It extends about a half-inch past the true muzzle.

      I also noted from a recovered bullet that the rifling is very shallow, like Marlin Microgroove rifling. That doesn’t work very well with pure lead bullets, so it might also be a factor, though all the Asian big bore rifles probably have it, as well, and as I said, I have tested many of them that are accurate.

      B.B.

  • Roachcreek Says:

    My Ranger 45 has given me 1.5 inch groups at 100 yards with 408 grain cast bullets @ 600 FPE. Just a counter to your views that cast bullets in airguns are inaccurate and that no big bore is very accurate.

  • Mel Says:

    Stupid question..why doesn’t the Dragon Claw’s bore extend backwards enough to allow direct loading into the breech? Is it too hard to press the bullet into the rifling?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Mell,

      That’s a good question. I wondered why myself. It’s not to accommodate longer bullets, because at the power level the gun has, 225 grains is about as heavy a conical as it will stabilize over a reasonable distance.

      B.B.

  • KidAgain Says:

    Hey BB, Long time no comment, i know, but after viewing Paul Copello’s video on this rifle and the .357 model I have to say maybe you got a poor shooter there. Paul’s getting what looks to be 1 1/2″ 5 shot groups @ 30yds with open sights. I am interested to see what’s holding this rifle back from shooting well.

    ka

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      KidAgain,

      It confounds me, as well. This is the first Korean big bore I have tested that wasn’t spot-on out of the box. But like I said, there is more to learn about this rifle.

      Thirty yards is a bit close for a big bore. Most hunting is done from 50-75 yards, so I wanted to see it perform at that distance.

      B.B.

  • Mike Says:

    Well, not a great start for this one. I would think they would install open sites that can be zeroed. Or perhaps this one just has too much barrel droop and needs to be fixed. Could it be a diamond in the rough?

    I think I would rather use my Uberti .50 Hawken Muzzle Loader.

    Mike

    • DerekB Says:

      The sights not being ‘zero-able’ seems like a red flag. That seems like a pretty huge oversight on a production gun, doesn’t it?

  • kevin Says:

    There’s definately something wrong here.

    Not much has been written about the new dragon claw. Jim Chapman’s testing of the dragon claw at 50 yards with 225 gr rn solids was 5 shots under 2 inches on high setting as I remember.

    I’ve seen posts about trouble with the newly designed valve that sam yang put in the dragon claw .50 but I don’t think a poorly functioning valve in B.B.’s test gun would explain those groups.

    I would certainly check for a bad crown and check for burrs in the breech with a Q Tip.

    Are those bullets deformed? Is the cavity in the rear concentric? Be interesting to recover these shot bullets out of ballistic gel or ? and study them. The holes in the targets don’t seem to indicate tumbling. Maybe yaw or wobble.

    Are the set screws on that adjustable b-square mount tight?

    Since you ran out of scope adjustment the second time at the range is the erector tube floating?

    kevin

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Kevin,

      I think the problem is uneven seating of the bullet. I’m pretty sure that is the cause of what we see here. I have recovered two bullets and they show even rifling, but it is very light, like Microgrooves.

      Two inches at 50 yards would be on the open side of okay.

      B.B.

  • Victor Says:

    Wow! This is sling shot accuracy! It looks like the 3rd picture shows the cleanest (round) holes. Can you detect any amount of tumbling? The first couple pictures aren’t so clean.

    Victor

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Victor,

      There are no signs of tumbling.

      You guys are getting some insight on what it’s like to test airguns. This sort of result often happens, but I try to show it so you’ll know how the test is progressing. I don’t wait until the gun is all sorted out before reporting on it. Heaven knows, I don’t have anywhere near the time for that.

      That doesn’t mean that this rifle won’t be accurate in the end. We’re just not there yet.

      B.B.

      • Victor Says:

        B.B.,
        Understood. I’m sure you read about my recent experience with a VERY bad tin of .22 CPHP pellets. If I had been so unlucky to get a tin like that when I bought my Titan, I would have taken the Titan back the next day. Yes, this sort of thing does happen. First time for me, and I’m sure dozen’s of times for you.
        Victor

  • Matt61 Says:

    B.B., that’s really awful. Big bores have not been on my radar, but it’s my impression that the Korean big bores of which I’m expecting that this is one are extremely accurate. Wasn’t one of them keeping up with your accurized 10/22 at 50 yards?

    Now that is interesting about pellet seating which I haven’t given much thought to. It reminds of how headspacing in firearms is so important with some claiming that to be THE secret to accuracy (and the Savage barrel locking technology to individualize headspacing for each rifle bearing that out). This is somewhat against my intuition since having the case rattle about a little upon firing seems to me like it would have a negligible effect on accuracy. Look at the Krupp 88mm or any other field gun slamming back on recoil while firing rounds on target. But if stability at the start of the shot is so important, it would then follow that the way the bullet is seated into the chamber and rifling would be critical too. I’m guessing that in the case of bullets, the less jump across the throat to the rifling the better. And for pellets, as discussions seem to show, the deeper the seating the better. But it would have to be pretty bad in the case of this gun to be responsible for those groups.

    I was musing early this morning in the wee hours when I have my best thoughts on yesterday’s blog and it occurs to me that airgun technology which can accelerate a pellet to simulate a shooting experience and then have it die in a short distance is really an achievement. You have a portable shooting experience with much less hassle. Just making something bigger and faster is elementary by comparison even if it seems more spectacular. Maybe the better goal is to figure out how to make a fast pellet decelerate more so that you can get the shooting experience into a smaller and smaller space.

    DaveUK, thanks for the definition of bully beef. I understand that fat actually makes things tastier, but the transformation you describe under high temperatures does sound pretty bad. I’d say a soldier attempting to trade rations would be at a distinct disadvantage with bully beef.

    J-F, I’ve finally come up with the perfect quote for you that has been nagging me. It’s from a character in a Stephen Hunter novel named Bigboy who is describing his history. “I found that I have a muscle tissue that responds spectacularly to weightlifting. I lifted millions of pounds…I learned to fight. I was good at it since I like to hurt people. Then, I looked for a place that could make use of my talents, and I finally found it in the Mississippi State Department of Corrections.” Of course not all that stuff after the muscle-building. :-) Heh, heh.

    Duskwight, I forget the gun laws in Russia. Have you had a chance to fire a Mosin-Nagant?

    Victor, interesting about the rail gun projectile that behaves as a liquid in flight. But then how does it stay intact at such high speeds?

    Matt61

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Matt,

    You are starting to cross your wires now. No big bore aurgun has ever been able to keep up with my accurized 10-22, nor have I made such a comment.

    Big bore are reasonably accurate. Sometimes, like when Gary Barnes shot high-drag dumbbell-shaped “bullets” (remember yesterday’s report?) from them, they were very accurate.

    But no big bore can keep up with a smallbore at 50 yards.

    Don’t kid yourself — cannon cases act exactly like centerfire firearm cases upon firing. They headspace and expand just the same.

    B.B.

  • Bobby Nations Says:

    Off topic, but there’s a well-written article about the benefits of target practice with an older RWS 34 from a doctor in South Carolina today. His name is Edwin Leap, and he normally blogs about medical stuff.

    http://edwinleap.com/blog/?p=1833

    Great writing.

  • Mike Says:

    I’m interested to see what difference a trial with even seating will make. My Dragon Claw has been used even less than yours, but the barrel droop I have noticed from using the open sights is very dramatic and makes the sights near unusable just like you have experienced.

    As far as the accuracy, I haven’t even gotten around to shooting past 25 yards with the thing, so I can’t comment from my experience on whether the accuracy inconsistency you found is a universal problem with the design. Though, Royweeks1 on YouTube has a few videos showing shots out to 250 yards that appear to be flying in a decently consistent manner.

    Keep up the testing! Great write-up as always.

  • Victor Says:

    B.B.,
    The only review of this rifle that I’ve read says that the trigger is extremely heavy. How much would you say that this plays into the apparent inaccuracy of this gun? When you’re trying to shoot for groups, even a highly skilled shooter will fail at a higher percentage when the trigger is challenging.
    Victor

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Victor,

      In a hunting rifle I seldom pay much attention to the trigger. The trigger on my Ballard target rifle is over seven pounds and I still do okay with it, so I guess I’m not that sensitive to heavy triggers.

      The Dragon Claw trigger is heavy, but not overly so and I doubt it had any affect on my shooting.

      B.B.

  • j.s.foster Says:

    the dragon claw I have will shoot one hole groups at 50 yards.I use the lee.500 round ball.Seat the ball firmly in the chamber.I have 40+years of black powder experence,chamber seating best.this ball cast 1in40 is equal on high or low power for tight groups.Sighted dead on 30 yards lowpower,gives p.o.a.60 yards on high.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      j.s.foster,

      The fit of the Lee ball may be the solution, in your case. By casting it that soft you are allowing the ball to be as large as it can be, which this bore certainly needs. I am convinced that I need to be more careful when seating the bullets in the breech, that they engage the rifling.

      When you seat those balls, how do you prevent the ball from rolling as it is pushed forward? If the sprue isn’t centered the ball is going to wobble as it flies, I would think. And blackpowder wisdom says you want the sprue forward, not to the rear. How do you do it?

      B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    j.s.foster sent this response to the wrong address, so I have posted it for him here:

    Easy,lee round ball moulds are sprueless.Simply drop the ball in,push it in snug with your pinkie. Dragon claw bore dia.is .495,bullets sould be at least.001 over.The swaged pellets you are using,give fair groups out of my gun.I melted all my 225gr.hps,after testing.These would tumble in wood,or flesh,not good.We have many varmints here in Montana,so testing ammo is easy here.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      j.s. foster,

      I will try round balls again. I use Hornady balls which are swaged and are therefore very uniform. They measure 0.495″ so if the bore in the same size, as you say, they should be a good fit.

      B.B.

  • j.s.foster Says:

    From a center fire,smokless firearm this would be good start.But with the round ball you have less bearing surface.Cap&ball revolvers work best with slightly oversize balls..500 balls give good bearing surface,compression,and are great with the twist&depth of the rifling.

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